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MONTANA 
STATE 




This "cover" page added by the Internet Archive for formatting purposes 



s 

597.55 

M26TLP 

1989 



3 0864 0014 4490 3 



TIMING. LOCATION AND POPULATION CHARACTERISTICS 
O"^ SPAWNING MONTANA ARCTIC GRAYLING 
( THYMALLUS ARCTICUS MONTANUS [MILNER] ) 
IN THE BIG HOLE RIVER DRAINAGE, 1988 

March 29, 1989 



by 
Bradley B. Shepard and Richard A. Oswald 

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks 
1400 South 19th Street 
Bozeman , Montana 59715 



Funding Provided by: 

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks 
Montana Natural Heritage Program - Nature Conservancy 
. Forest _Serv i.ce ....^QcAlaeisrw^efl ion 




STATE DOCUMENTS COLLECTION 

MAR 1 2 1990 



MONTANA STATE LIBRARY 

1515 E. 6th AVE. 
HELENA. MONTANA 59620 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 

Spawning Montana Arctic grayling (Thvmallu5 arcticus 
montanus [Mxlner]) within the upper Big Hole River drainage were 
sampled using electrof ishing fro.-n April through June 1988. 
Sample sites included the main stem Big Hole River from Wise 
River up to Jackson and the lower portions of 11 tributaries to 
the river. Distribution of spawning grayling, habitat utili;:ed 
for spawning, and characteristics of the spawning population were 
described . 

Four hundred grayling were captured. The first ripe male 
and female were captured on April 20 and April 27, respectively, 
in the Big Hole River near the town of Wisdom. The number^ of 
captured ripe females peaked during the period between April 29 
and May 11 with the first spent female captured on May 4. 
Spawning appeared to be triggered by a combination of declining 
river flows after the initial spring sub-peak flow caused by low 
elevation run-off and maximum daily water temperatures increasing 
to 50 F. The sex ratio of all captured fish identified a^ 
mature, ripe, or spent was 2.0 males: 1.0 female. A large portion 
of age II fish were sexually mature. The average lengths and 
weights of ripe males (n = 158) and ripe females (n = 34) were 
10.9 inches and 0.42 pounds and 11.3 inches and 0.51 pounds, 
respectively. Grayling spawned primarily within the main stem 
Big Hole River from the mouth of the North Fork Big Hole River 
upstream to 3 miles above Wisdom, in a few scattered side 
channels below the North Fork, and in the lower portions of 
Swamp, Big Lake, and Rock creeks. 

Spawning sites were characterized as riffles with clean 
surface gravel which appeared "bright" near pool or run habitats, 
generally within actively degrading or aggrading side channels or 
alluvial gravel fans at the mouth's of tributaries. Mos-. 
spawning grayling were captured in areas of hydrologic in- 
stability. 

The age composition of the sampled population suggested that 
the 1987 and 1985 year classes (age I and III fish, respectively) 
were poor year classes. Conversely, the 1986 year class (age II 
fish) was a good year class. These relative year class strengths 
may be controlled by water flows during the first year of life. 

Of sight fish tagged during the 1988 spawning run and 
recaptured later during the summer of 1983, two stayed in the 
upper river near spawning areas and five moved down river oS far 
as Divide Dam. One fish which was tagged in Deep Creek^on 
October 29, 1987 was recaptured near Wisdom on May 4, 1988 

Page - ii 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



(where it moved to presumeably spawn), and then moved back to 
Deep Creek where it was captured on August 4, 1988. Of ten fish 
tagged during 1937 sampling and recaptured durirg the 1988 
spawning season, half were tagged in the river nsar Fishtrap 
Creek either during the previous May or November, four were 
tagged in the Wisdom area during the previous May, and the other 
was the Deep Creek fish mentioned above. This tag return 
information lends support to observations by the authors that the 
Big Hole River supports a population of grayling which appear to 
use the entire river above Divide on a seasonal basis. A 
portion of this grayling population normally moves to the upper 
river (near Wisdom) during the spring and remains in this area of 
the river during the summer before emigrating down river to 
winter habitats. 



Page - iii 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

TABLE GF CONTENTS 

Page 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ii 

TABLE OF CONTENTS iv 

LIST OF TABLES vi 

LIST OF FIGURES vii 

ACKNOWLEDGEt^ENTS viii 

INTRODUCTION 1 

STUDY SITE DESCRIPTION 5 

METHODS 8 

FISH COLLECTION 8 

SPAWNING SITE CHARACTERIZATION 12 

RESULTS 13 

TIMING OF SPAWNING , 13 

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SPAWNING RUN 13 

DISTRIBUTION OF SPAWNING WITHIN THE DRAINAGE 13 

MOVEMENT ASSESSED USING TAG RETURNS IS 

CHARACTERISTICS OF SPAWNING SITES 13 

Visual Characteristics 18 

Streambed Composition 22 

DISCUSSION 24 

TIMING OF SPAWNING , 24 

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SPAWNING RUN ..... 25 

DISTRIBUTION OF SPAWNING WITHIN THE DRAINAGE 26 

Page - iv 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

TABLE OF CONTENTS 
(continued ) 

Page 

DISCUSSION (continued) 

MOVEMENT ..... 27 

SPAWNING SITE CHARACTERISTICS 29 

STATUS OF POPULATION AND ENHANCEMENT FEASIBILITY ... 29 

LITERATURE CITED 33 



Page — v 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

* ■ 

LIST OF TABLES 

Page 

Summary of angling regulations tor Arctic grayling in 

the Big Hole River from 1970 through 1990 ....... 4 

Electrof ishing samplxng dates, locations, and approxi- 
mate length of sample sections for electrof ishing 
sampling of the 1988 spawning Arctic grayling popu- 
lation in the Big Hole River. "NOSN" indicates no 
other fish species netted during that saiipling 9 

Mean length, length range, and sex ratio information by 
age for the portion of the Big Hole River Arctic 
grayling spawning run sampled during 19GB 15 

Summary of tag return information for recaptured Arctic 
grayling captured during the spring of 1988 19 



Page - vi 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

LIST OF FIGURES 

Page 

1. Map of the Big Hole River drainage 6 

2. Daily discharge (cfs) and mean, minimum, and maximum 
water temperatures in the Big Hole River near Wisdom, 
Montana from April through June 1988. Preliminary data 
collected by the USGS. The time of grayling spawning 

IS shown in the cross-hatched block above the X-axis. . 7 

3. Catch of grayling 8.0 inches and longer in the Big Hole 
River and its tributaries by date during 1938. 
Grayling were segregated into ripe male, ripe female, 
spent f=male, and other classes 14 

4. Length frequency of Arctic grayling captured during the 
1988 spawning run by half inch length group. Grayling 
were segregated into ripe male, ripe female, and other 
classes. Ripe fish included all fish identified as 
either mature, ripe, or spent . 16 

5. Growth of grayling in the Big Hole River drainage 
estimated from mean lengths at age 17 

6. Grayling movement assessed from tag return data for 
grayling tagged during 1987 and recaptured during the 
spring of 1988 (A) and tagged during the spring of 1988 
and recaptured later in 1988 (B). The origin of arrows 
is the tagging location and the arrow's heads indicate 
recapture locations 21 

7. Composition of a typical riffle streambed site where 
grayling were found spawning in the main stem Big Hole 
River and in a similar site where no grayling spawning 
was documented in the North Fork Big Hole River. All 
streambed compositions were determined from ten hollow 
core (McNeil and Ahnell 1964) samples 23 



Page — vii 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



The U.S. ForE?5t Service, Montana Natural Heritage Program of 
the Nature Conservancy, and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife 
and Parks provided funding for this project. The authors would 
especially like to thank Dave Center of the Montana Natural 
Heritage Program; Don Bartschi of the U.S. Forest Service, 
Regional Office; Ron Prichard, the Beaverhead National Forest's 
Supervisor; Joe Spehar and the entire Staff of the Wisdom Ranger 
District; and Larry Peterman and Jerry Weils of the Montana 
Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for their support and 
encouragement. A special thanks to Fisheries Biologist Harold 
Stevensen for his field work and experience and to Ken DeCock, 
Greg Gibbons, and Tim Mosolf for their untiring and cheerful help 
in the field. Dave Center, Don Skaar, and George Liknes reviewed 
early drafts of this report and their comments were invaluable 
and, in most cases, incorporated into this report. 

Any reference to product names are intended to document the 
type of equipment used and do not represent a product endorse- 
ment. 



Page - viii 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



INTRODUCTION 

The last riverine (fluvial) native population cf Montana 
Arctic grayling ( Thymallus arcticus montanus QMilner]) in the 
contiguous 48 United States exists in the upper Big Hole River of 
southv'jestern Montana (Liknes and Gould 1987). The historic range 
of the fluvial grayling in the lower 48 states included most of 
the upper Missouri River basin above Great Falls and northern 
Michigan. The Michigan populations were extirpated around 1936 
(Hoi ton 1971; Scott and Grossman 1973). The distribution of 
fluvial grayling in Montana has progressively been reduced 
(Henshall 1906; Vincent 1962) until now the Big Hole River 
supports the only true fluvial population in the state. A 
population inhabiting a canal system (Sunnyslope Canal within the 
Sun River drainage) and a remnant population in the Madison River 
above Ennis Lake exist, however, the status of these populations 
are likely dependent upon reservoirs within their systems (Bill 
Hill, MDFWP, Choteau and Dick Vincent, MDFWP, Bozeman, personal 
communication). This dramatic reduction in range has led to the 
designation of the fluvial grayling as a "species of special 
concern" by the Endangered Species Committee of the American 
Fisheries Society (Johnson 1987), the Natural Heritage Program, 
and the (Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks ( t-IDFWF ) , 
as a "sensitive species" by the U.S. Forest Service, Northern 
Region (files, USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Missoula, 
Montana), and a Category 2 species under consideration for ESA 
listing by the Fish and Wildlife Service (Federal Register). 

Electrophoretic analyses conducted on seven Montana grayling 
populations (Grebe Lake, Lake Agnes, Rodqers Lake, Elizabeth 
Lake, Fuse Lake, Sunnyslope Canal, and the Big Hole River) and 
one Alaska population (Chena River) found that the lake popula- 
tions were not greatly divergent from each other (Everett and 
Allendorf 1985). These authors found the Big Hole River, Chena 
River and Sunnyslope Canal populations were more different from 
the lake populations than from each other. Both the Big Hole and 
Chena populations are fluvial populations. The origin of the 
Sunnyslope Canal population is unknown, however, the most 
reasonable theory about their genetic make-up is that these fish 
undergo intense selective pressures because they live in a canal 
where ail movement must be down stream and the canal is dewatered 
every fall. The above authors implied that the Big Hole River 
population has maintained its native fluvial genotypes even 
though adfluvial (]a!:e) stocks may have been planted :;.n the iiig 
Hole River during the rriid-1900' s. 

The MDFWP has attempted to fr.onitor the abundance of the Big 
Hole River grayling population since the mid-1970's. Resulting 
data indicated a relative decline in abundance which prompted 

Page - 1 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

prDgrsssively restrxctxng sport angling harvest from a 10 fish 
limit to a catch and release limit between 1975 and 1983 (Table 
1). In addition to reducing limits, MDFWP initiated a graduate 
study on the population in conjunction with the Montana Coopera- 
tive Fisheries Research Unit (Montana State University, Bozeman, 
Montana) which was the first in-depth attempt to document 
grayling population abundance and distribution (Liknes 1981). 

A literature review of grayling spawning requirements and 
timing found that grayling are annual spawners (Craig and Poulin 
1975), likely home (Warner 1955; Craig and Poulin 1975; Tack 
1980), migrate long distances to reach spawning grounds (Henshall 
1907; Brown 1938; Nelson 1954; Reed 1964; Bishop 1971; Craig and 
Poulin 1975; Kratt and Smith 1977), initiate spawning migrations 
immediately prior to or during ice breakup of main stem rivers 
when water temperatures are 32 to 39 F (Brown 1938; Nelson 1954; 
Wojcik 1955; Warner 1955; Reed 1964; Schallock 1966; Williams 
1968; Tack 1971; Bishop 1971; Tripp and McCart 1974; Craig and 
Poulin 1975; Krueger 1981; Falk et al . 1982), spawn at .^ixter 
temperatures between 36 to 50 F (Tryon 1947; Wojcik 1954; Rawson 
1950; Warner 1957; Kruse 1959; Reed 1964; Williams 1968; Bishiop 
1971; Netsch 1975; Wells 1976; Falk et al . 1982), spawn over a 2 
to 24 day period (Kratt and Smith 1977), and spawn in current 
velocities ranging fron 1.1 to 4.8 ft/s (krueger 1981). 
Selection of substrate --^or spawning varies widely. Spawning 
usually occurs over gravel substrates (Henshall 1907; Rawson 
1950; Nelson 1954; Bishop 1971), but may occur over mud-bottomed 
pools With vegetation (Scott and Grossman 1973). 

Liknes (1981) surveyed the Big Hole River grayling popula- 
tion during 1978 and 1979 by elec trof ishing and drift net 
sampling. He found grayling in three sections of the main stem 
Big Hole River and the lower reaches of 11 tributary streams and 
believed that the population was confined to the main stsm Big 
Hole River and tlie lower portions of its tributaries above the 
mouth of the North Fork Big Hole River. Shepard (1987 and files, 
Beaverhead National Forest, Dillon, MT) found three additional 
streams, Fishtrap, O'Dell and Wyman creeks, and Wise River also 
contained grayling. The grayling in O'Dell and Wyman creeks and 
Wise River probably originated from grayling drifting out of 
mountain lakes within the upper Wyman creek drainage. Shepard ' s 
findings supported the contention of Liknes that grayling were 
confined mainly to the upper Big Hole River valley tottom, 
however, Shepard (1986, 19S7 and files, Beaverhe^.d National 
Forest, Dillon, MT ) and Oswald (files, MDFWP, Dillon, MT) h-ave 
documented grayling in most of the Big Hole River from Jackson 
downstream to its mouth. 



Page 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Grayling in the Big Hole River ?.ppear to be concentrated 
between Divide and I'Jisdom and use this portion of the river 
seasonally by moving up into the Wisdom area during the spring 
with a significant portion of the population normally re,Tiair>ing 
in this area through the summer before migrating down river to 
winter habitats. Shepard (19S7) radio tagged adult grayling 
during the fail of 1986 and found most radioed grayling moved 
down river out of the Wisdom area, during October. Some years 
adult grayling do not remain in the Wisdom area during the 
sumnier, but move^ down river immediately after spawning. It is 
unclear what cues this early movement but preliminary observa- 
tions indicate that it is related to severe reductions in flow. 

Lil.nes i,i9Sl) sampled age O grayling within the Big Hole 
drainage and concluded that grayling spawned sometime during late 
April or early May. Shepard (1987) attempted to trap spawning 
graylirig from April 7 through June 25, 1986, as they moved into 
several tributaries and a channel of the Big Hole River with 
little success. In 1987 a committee was organized by the MDFWP 
that included representatives of MDFWP; Population Genetics 
Laboratory, University of flontana; Montana Cooperative Fisheries 
Research Unit, Montana State University; Montana Natural Heritage 
Program — Nature Conservancy; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service; r.!ational Park Service; and American Fisheries 
Society. This Committee recommended and organized a study to 
collect more detailed information to describe the locations, 
distribution, and site characteristics of grayling spawning sites 
within the Big Hole River drainage, and the timing and population 
characteristics of the spawning run. This report summarizes data 
collected during the first year of that effort. 



Page 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

Tabla 1. Summary of angling regulations for Arctic grayling in 
the Big Hols River from 1970 through 1790. 



Regulation years Grayling regulation 



1970/71 - 1977/7B Ten pounds and one fish or 10 fish in 

combination with brown, cutthroat, and 
rainbow trout. 

1978/79 - 1980/81 Five fish with only one fish exceeding 18 

inches in combination with brown, cutthroat, 
and rainbow trout. 

1981/82 - 1982/83 Five fish with only one fish axceeding 13 

inches in combination with brown, cutthroat, 
and rainbow trout except from Divide Dam to 
Melrose Bridge where it was three fish, under 
13 inches and one fish over 22 inches in 
combination with brown, cutthroat, iind 
rainbow trout. 

1983/34 One grayling either under 13 or over 22 

inches. 

1984/85 - 1987/38 One grayling over 13 inches. 

1988/39 - 19G9/90 Catch and release for grayling. 



Page 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



STUDY SITE DESCRIPTION 

The study area included the upper Big Hole River drainage 
above Divide, Montana (Figure 1). Sampling was concentrated 
within tha main stem Big Hole River between the towns of Wise 
River and Jackson and m the lower portions of its tributaries 
including the North Fork Big Hole River, Big Lake Creek, Deep 
Creek, Fishtrap Creek, Governor Creek, F:Qck Creek, Sandhollow 
Creek, Seymour Creek, Steel Creek, Swamp Creek, and Warm Springs 
Creek. During sampling. Big Hole River flows and water tempera- 
tures rangec fro.n 618 to 3320 cfs and 33 to 75 F, respectively, 
using preliminary data supplied by the USGS from a gauge located 
at the Highway 43 bridge near Wisdom (Figure 2). 



Page - 5 




'pcTy<J - t> 



DISCHARGE (CFS) AND WATER TEMP (C) 

BIG HOLE RIVER. WISDOM 



D 
I 

8 
O 

h 

a 
r 
g 

e 
(cfs) 



4000 



3000 



2000 



1000- 




ii i iiiiiiii m liiiii i ii m iiiiii i ii m iiiiiiliiiiiiiii ii iiilii m iiiii i iiiiii iim 
Apr 1 Apr 18 May 1 May 16 May 31 Jun 15 
U8Q8 provisional data 



iiiiiiliiiiiiii 
Jun 30 



Figure 2, 



Daily discharge (cfs) and mean, minimum, and 
maximum water temperatures in the Big Hole River 
near Wisdom, Montana from April through June 19S3. 
Preliminary data collected by the USGS. The time 
of grayling spawning is shown in the cross- 
hatched black above the X— axis. 



Pa, 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



riETHODS 

FISH COLLECTION 

Grayling were captured using either boat mounted electro- 
fishing gear (either a Buffalo Drift boat or Coleman Crawd£-.d 
outfitted with a 240 watt gas powered generator connected to a 
Harvey Leach constructed variable voltage pulsator with mobile 
anodes) or a backpack elec trof isher (Coeffelt BP-iC) electro- 
fished in a downstream direction. Sampling began on April 6, in 
an Br&A of the Big Hols River free of ice, and continued through 
June 29 (Table 2). Two crews operated during the peak of the 
spawning run. A total of approximately 54 miles of river and 20 
miles of tributaries were surveyed during the spawning season. 

Stunned grayling, rainbow trout, and brook trout were 
captured, except as noted on Table 2. For all captured fish, 
length was measured to the nearest O.i inch and weights were 
recorded to the nearest 0.01 pound. 

Sex and state of maturity (immature; mature, but not ripe; 
ripe; or spent) was recorded for all grayling. Sex >J3termination 
was based on extrusion of gametes, the ability to feel eggs 
V'githin the bodv cavity, and the shape of the dorsal fins as 
documented by Rawson (1950). Ripeness of female grayling was 
difficult to determine until immediately prior to and during 
spawning. It was difficult to determine if males were spent 
because sperm could still be extruded from spent fish. S.Tsaller 
grayling (fish less than 10.0 inches) v^erEf not checked for sex 
and state of maturity during the early part of the sampling 
(prior to April 27). 

Scale samples were removed from grayling and scale impres- 
sions were made m acetate. Scale samples were later read for 
age determination. Age interpretation from scale samples up to 
age IV was believed relatively accurate, while estimation beyond 
age IV was suspect. Growth interpreted from scales should be 
reliable because scale samples were obtained in the spring 
during annulus formation. 

All grayling and rainbow trout longer than 8.0 inches were 
tagged with a "spaghetti-type" numbered anchor tag. Recaptures 
of previously tagged fish were noted. Points of capture for 
grayling were visually noted and recorded m the field. RecoriJed 
infor-mation included the general hiabitat type and streambed 
condition where fish were captured and the location by river 
landmark. These capture locations were later converted to 
rivermile locations using USGS maps (scale: 1;24,000) and a 
Rivermile index. 

Page - 8 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Table 2. Electrof ishing sampling datas, locations, and approx- 
imate length of sample sections for eit-ctrof ishing sampling of 
the 1998 spawning Arctic grayling population in the Big Hole 
River. "NOSN" indicates no other fish species netted curing that 
sampl ing = 



Date 



Location 



Section 
length (mi 



Comments 



4-06-83 Big Hole R. - rial ion's 
scales to Stanchf ield ' s 



1.8 



No grayling 
NOSN 



4-12-88 Big Hole R. - Seymcur Ck 
to Dickie Bridge 



5.8 



No grayling 
Massive ice flows 
NOSN 



4-12-88 Big Hole R. - Pool at 
Sportman's Park 






Gne grayling 
Massive ice flows 
NOSN 



4-13-88 Fishtrap Ck . - Above 
Highway 43 



1.0 



No grayling 
Lots of ice 



4-14-88 N Fk Big Hole R. - below 0.1 
Else ' s Ranch 



No grayling 



4-20-88 Big Hole R. - above 5.0 
Highway 43 bridge by Wisdom 



o« grayling 



4-21-88 Big Hole R. - Squaw Ck 
to Fishtrap access 



S.l 



3 grayling 
NOSN 



4-21-88 Sandhollow Ck - below 
N Fk Big Hole Rd 



O. 



No grayling 



4-21-88 Big Hole R. - 40 Bar 

Ranch to Fred Hirschy's 



4.3 



No grayling 
1 rainbow 



4-22-88 Swamp Ck . - N Fk Big 
Hole Rd to mouth 

4-22-88 Big Hole R. - Swamp Ck 
to Sandhollow Ck 

4— 2d— 88 Seymour Ck . — above and 
below Highway 43 bridge 



2.0 



5 grayling 
1 grayling 
No grayling 



4-26-88 Fishtrap Ck . - side 

channel at Access site 



0. 1 



No grayling 
19 rainbow 



Page - 9 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Table 2. (continued) 



Date 



4-26-38 



4-27-SS 



4-27-88 



4-27-88 



4-28-88 



4-29-88 



5-02-88 



5-03-38 



5-03-08 



5-03-88 



5-04-88 



5-05-B8 



5-06-SS 



-09-88 



Location 



Sac tion 
length (mi ) 



Sand hoi low Ck . - above 
N Fk Big Hole Rd 

Big Hole R. - Steel Ck 
mouth to above cemetery 

Steel Ck. - Steel Ck Rd 
to Bxg Hole R 

Sig Hole R. - Sandhollow 
Ck to Doolittle Ck 



. 5 



2.0 



1.2 



9.6 



N Fk Big Hole R. - upper 6.0 
to lower N Fk roads 

Big Hol= R. - above 5.0 
Highway 43 bridge at Wisdom 

Big Hole R. - below 5.4 
Highway 43 bridge at Wisdom 

Rock Ck . - lower end 0.8 
above mouth at Big LaKe Ck 



Big Lake Ck , 
Rock Ck 



below 



0.1 



Sandhollow Ck . - N Fk 
Big Hole Rd 



5-04-88 Big Hole R. - above 



Highway 43 bridge at Wisd 



5.0 
om 



Big Hole R. - below 5.4 
Highway 43 bridge at Wisdom 

Big Hole R. - 40 Bar 4.3 
Ranch to Fred Hirschy's 

Big Hole R. - Doolittle 6.6 
Ck to Squaw Ck 

Swamp Ck. - N Fk Big 2.0 
Rd to mouth 



Comments 



No grayling 
13 grayling 
6 grayling 



40 grayling 
NOSN 

Sampled about 3.0 
mi. No grayling 

45 grayling 



52 grayling 
15 grayling 
4 grayling 
Creek dry 
35 grayling 



39 grayling 
NOSN 

No grayling 
6 rainbow 

11 gi^aylinq 
NCSN 

23 grayling 



Page - 10 



Table 2. (continued). 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Date 



Location 



Section 
lengtn (mi ) 



Comments 



5-09-88 



5-09-38 



5-10-88 



5-10-88 



5-11-88 



5-11-88 



5-11-88 



5-11-88 



5-16-88 
5-17-88 

6-13-88 



6-15-88 



6-21-88 



6-29-88 



Big HoLe R. — Swamp 
Ck to Sandhollow Ck 

Big Hole R. — Squaw Ck 
to Fishtrap access 

Big Hole R. - North Fork 
Big Hole to Doolittle Ck 



0.2 



8, 



i.O 



N Fk Big Hole R. 
N Fk Rd to nouth 



lower 



Governor Ck . - T. Clemow 0.5 
Rd to Warm Springs Ck 



Warm Springs Ck - 
Governor Ck to mouth 



0.5 



Big Hole R. - Warm 2.5 
Springs Ck to Twin Lks Rd 

Big Hole R. — Sandhollow 5.5 
Ck to Doolittle Ck 

Deep Ck . — Ski Rd bridge 2.0 
to mouth at Big Hole R. 

Big Hole R. - above 5.0 
Highway 43 bridge at Wisdom 

Big Hole R. - Fishtrap 3.0 
access to Sportsman's Park 

Big Hole R. - Wisdom 9.8 
Cemetery to Doolittle Ck 



Big Hole R. - Dickie 
bridge to Jerry Ck 



8.4 



3 grayling 



14 grayling 
NOSN 

3 grayling 



1 grayling 
near mouth 

1 grayling 
No grayling 

No grayling 

2 rainbow 

19 grayling 
NOSN 

2 grayling 
43 rainbow 

7 grayling 
12 grayling 
15 grayling 
1 grayling 



Page - 11 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

SPAWNING SITE CHARACTERIZATION 

Sites where ripe grayling were captured were visually 
characterxzed including habitat type (rxffle, pool, etc.), 
substrate type (size category ranked into one or more of the 
following size classes: silt, sand, qrs.vei , cobble, or boulder), 
and channel type (main channel, side channel, braided channel). 
In addition, ten strearr.bed samples were taken from one known 
grayling spawning site in the Big Hole River and a similar 
habitat type unused by spawning grayling in the North Fork of the 
Big Hole River with a hollow-core sampler (modified from McNeil 
and Ahnell 1964). These core samples were oven dried and sieved 
through 2.0, 1.0, 0.5, 0.37, 0.25, 0.09, 0.03, and 0.003 inch 
mesh sieves and the material retained on each sieve was weighed 
to the nearest 0.01 pound. Material left suspended in the water 
during sampling was estimated according co methods presented in 
Shepard et al. (1984). The percentage of each size class of 
material was calculated for each core and averaged by site. 



Page - 12 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



RESULTS 

TIMING OF SPAWNING 

The first ripe male grayling was captured on April 20 in 
the Big Hole River above the Highway 43 bridge near Wisdom 
(Figures 1 and 3). The first female grayling identified as ripe 
was captured in the Big Hole River on April 27 near the Wisdom 
Cemetery an the east channel. The nurrbers of ripe females peaked 
during the period between April 29 and May 11. The numbers of 
ripe males peaked during the period between April 22 to May 17. 
The first spent female was captured on May 4. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SPAWNING RUN 

The sex ratio of ail fish identified as mature, ripe, or 
spent was 2.0 malesil.O female (Table 3). Length and age 
frequency information for mature fish illustrated that a large 
portion of the age II fish were sexually mature (Table 3 and 
Figure 4). The fact that the sex ratios change betv-^een age 
classes suggests that not ail female grayling were maturing at 
age II and that female grayling may be suffering higher mortality 
than males after age iV (Table 3). The average length and weight 
of ripe males i. n = 158) was 10.9 inches and 0.42 pounds, 
respectively. The average length and weight of ripe females (n = 
34) was 11.3 inches and 0.51 pounds, respectively. The majority 
of growth in length was attained at by age III with the fastest 
growth occurring during the first and second years of life 
(Figure 5) . 

DISTRIBUTION OF SPAWNING igiTHIN THE DRAINAGE 

The majority of grayling spawning during 1988 occurred 
within the main stem Big Hole River between the North Fork of the 
Big Hole River upstream to approximately 3.0 miles above the 
Highway 43 bridge near the town of Wisdom and in the lower 
portions (generally from their mouth upstream one to two miles) 
of Swamp, Big Lake, and Rock creeks (Figure 1). Isolated 
spawning areas were observed in side channels within the main 
stem Big Hole River above the Highway 43 bridge near Squaw Crnek 
and between Sawlog and Fishtrap creeks. 



Page - 13 



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If 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Table 3. Mean ienqth, length range, and se;< ratio information by 
age for the portion of the 3ig Hole Rxver Arctic grayling 
spawning run sampled during 1983. 



Age Number Mean length Length range Percent Sex ratio 
class sampled (inches) (inches J mature ( male : female ) 



1 


67 


5.7 


4.4 - 


- 7.2 


None 




2 


169 


9.8 


8.1 - 


- 11.2 


66 


3.7:1.0 


3 


25 


11.7 


10.2 - 


- 12.8 


92 


J. . 9 : 1 . 


4 


61 


12.7 


11.6 - 


- 14.9 


97 


1.0:1.0 


5 + 


24 


13.4 


12.6 - 


- 14.6 


iOO 


2 . 4 : 1 . 



Total 346 2.0:1.0 



Page - 15 



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BIG HOLE GRAYLING 
Mean Length (TL) by Age 



16-1 



LENGTH (In.) 




Figurs 5. 



Growth of grayling in the Big Hole River drainage 
estimated from mean lengths at age. 



Pa-^e. - if 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



MOVEMENT ASSESSED USING TAG RETURNS 

A total of 30 grayling were recaptured during this sampling. 
Twenty of these recaptures were tagged within the same year 
(1988) and ten were tagged in previous years (Table 4). Of the 
ten grayling tagged during 1987 and recaptured during our 
sampling, five were tagged m the river between Fishtrap Creek 
and Sportsmen's Park either during the previous Hay or November, 
four were tagged in the Wisdom area during the previous May, and 
one was tagged in Deep Creek the previous October (Figure 6 — A). 
All fish tagged during the winter (November) and recaptured 
during our spring sampling had moved up river. Subsequent 
returns of seven fish tagged during our spring elec trof ishing by 
anglers found that over half the fish tagged and recaptured (four 
of seven) moved down river as far as the Divide Dam and the 
longest recorded down river movement was 51 miles (Figure 6 - B). 
The other three were captured in the Wisdom area from May to 
early July. To summarize this tag return data, during 1938 the 
majority of mature-sized grayling (fish 8.0 inches and longer) 
moved upstream in the early spring to spawning areas (primarily 
from the North Fork up to Wisdom) from wintering areas within the 
lower river (from as far downstream as Divide Dam), spawned, and 
then moved dov^n river or into tributaries after spawning (Table 4 
and Figure 6). During past years mature-sized grayling spent the 
entire summer within the upper portion ot the drainage in the 
Wisdom Area. as documented by summer and fall electrof ishing 
(Liknes 1978; Oswald 1984; Oswald 1986). 



CHARACTERISTICS OF SPAWNING SITES 

Visual Characteristics 

Grayling usually were found spawning in riffle areas over 
gravel which appeared "bright" due to the absence of periphyton 
and/or siit and sand sized material on the surface of the 
streambed. These riffle areas of "bright" gravel were often 
associated with recently created side channels, below beaver dams 
and irrigation diversion structures, and/or near mouths' cf 
tributaries where alluvial gravel fans had formed. Mature 
grayling were collected near each riffle of clean gravel below 
every beaver dam in a recently formed side channel belovvj Wisdom 
which contained numerous beaver dams. 3y the (Tiiddls of the 
spawning season elec trof ishers became relatively efficient at 
identifying areas inhere ripe grayling were likely to be captured. 
These areas could be characterized as being m areas of hydro- 
logic instability, often in recently cut side c^■annels where a 
riffle with "bright" gravel was situated near a pool or run. 



Page - 18 



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Pa^e- - ZO 



GRAYLING TAG RECAPTURES 
TAG DURING 1987 AND RECAP 1988 



130 

120 - 
110 - 
100 

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70 

80 -\ 
60 



BHR - Rlvermlle 




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TAG DURING SPAWN AND RECAP AFTER 



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iiiiiiuiiiiMiiiiiiiiiiMiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiliMiniiMiiiiliriMiiiiiiniliiiiiiiMiMriliiMiiMiniiilMiiiiiiiiiiiiliiiiniiiiM 
Apr 20 May 6 May 20 Jun 4 Jun 10 Jul 4 Jul 18 Aug 3 Aug 18 

1988 



Figure 6. 



Brayiing movement assessed from tag return data 
for grayling tagged during 1987 and recaptured 
during the spring of 198B (A) and tagged during 
the spring of 1983 and recaptured later in 1938 
(B). The origifi of arrows is the tagging iocarion 
and the Arro'.'t heaas indicate recapture locations. 



Z\ 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Streambed Composition 

The streambed within a known grayling spawning rifflp in 
the Big Hole River contained 30/1 large gravel (particles between 
6.0 and 0.5 inches), 507. fine gravel (particles between 0.5 and 
0.09 inches), and 207. sand and silts (particles less than 0.09 
inches), while a similar site not used by grayling in the North 
Fork Big Hole River contained 30%, 407., and 307. of the same size 
classes, respectively (Figure 7). There were lower percentages 
of fine material (smaller than 0.25 inches in diameter) in the 
Big Hole spawning site (307.) versus the North Fork site not used 
for spawning (437.). There were statistically significant 
differences between the two sites for the cummulative percentages 
of material less than 0.374 inche'3 (p < O.02), less than 0.25 
inch (p < 0.002), less than 0.09 inches (p < 0.004) based on 
Mann-Whitney tests (Daniels 1973) computed using a STAtGRAPHICS 
computer package version 2.6 ( STSC 1986). There were no 
significant differences between cummulative percentages for the 
other size classes analyzed. 

During the e;-<traction of the sample material we observed 
that a real difference existed between the ti-jo -3ites. The main 
stem Big Hole River site (where grayling were spawning) had very 
little sand and silt material in tha upper one to two inches of 
the streambed, but did have an abundance of sand and silt below 
that level. The North Fork Big Hole River site (where no 
grayling spawning was observed) had abundant sand and silt 
observed on the surface. 



Page - 22. 



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^3 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



DISCUSSION 



TIMING OF SPAWNING 

Grayling spawning in the Big Hole appeared to be triggered 
by a combination of water temperature and river discharge (Figure 
2). Daily maximum water temperatures at Wisdom rose above 50 F 
on April 16 for the first time (reaching 52 F) and remained 
above 50 F from then until April 18, however, river flows also 
rose rapidly during this time period from 1,900 cfs to 2,110 cfs 
and continued to rise to 2,530 cfs by April 22. Daily naximum 
water temperatures again rose higher than 50 F on April 27 (52 F) 
ana remained over 50 F for the remainder of April. River flows, 
meanwhile, dropped from the early peak of 2,530 cfs down to l,6t0 
on April 25 and stabilized at around 1,300 cfs between April 26 
to Mf>y 13. This suggests that grayling initiatec spawning in 
response to the combined cues of daily maximum water temperatures 
rising above 50 F in conjunction with the falling limb of the 
initial spring sub-peak flow event that is characteristic of the 
upper Big Hole River nydrograph. Spawning then occurred during 
a relatively stable flow period between the initial spring sub- 
peak flow and the mam higher spring peak flow that occurred 
during late-May and early-June- Mean daily water temperatures 
during the peak of spawning activity (April 27 to day 10) 
averaged 47 F, but during the last five days of April (when 
spawning was initiated) mean daily water temperatures av^r^ged 
48 F. 

A review of previous studies found t j me of spawning w^5 
variable. Environmental factors that cued spawning activity 
were suggested to be water temperature and flow changes. Brown 
(1938) stated that 'The actual period of spawning for the Montana 
grayling has been found to vary greatly between different years 
and between different localities in the same year." Previous 
studies of grayling in Montana found that spawning occurred from 
mid-March through July. Specifically spawning occurred, mid- 
March to April 24 in Odell Creek, a Madison River tributary, 
peaking around April 16 (Brown 1938); from mid-May to early June 
in Narrows Creek, a tributary to Elk Lake in the Centennial 
Valley of southwest Montana (Lund 1974); from early May through 
May in an inlet of Rogers Lake in the northwest portion of the 
state (Tryon 1947); through early July with the time of initial 
spawning unknown in three high mcuntain lake inlets within the 
Wise River drainage, a tributary to the Big Hole River (Erik sen 
1975) ; f rcTi mid-May to l^.te June in tributaries to G(-ate Lake in 
Yellowstone National Park ( Kruse 1959); from May 19 to June 6 in 
Red Rock Creek and from May 23 to June 1 in Antelope Creek, both 
tributaries to Upper Red Rock Lake in the Centennial Valley of 

Page - 24 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



southwest Montana (Nelson 1954); fran early Jane through late? 
June in an inlet stream to Lake Agnes in southwest Montana 
(Peterman 1972); and fron iriid-JLily thrDugh late July in an inlet 
to Hyalite Reservoir, near Eoz^man, Montana (Wells 1976). A 
revie'Aj of grayling studies conducted in Alaska found the majority 
of those grayling populations spawried from mid-May to mid-June, 
however, some populations were found to spawn as early as lata 
April and others as late as early July (Armstrong 1986). A 
review of studies conducted in Canada found that spawning 
generally occurred from April through June ( Rawson 1950; Bishop 
1971; McCart et al . 1972; de Sruyn and McCart 1974; Tripp and 
McCart 1974; Kratt and Smith 1977? Talk et al. 1982). 

In past studies of grayling m Montana spawning was found to 
commence when water temperatures reaKzt-\^d the 40—50 F range and 
the upper end of this range was the suggested temperature where 
most spawning activity was observed by the majority of the 
authors (Brown 1938; Tryon 1947; Nelson 1954; Kruse 1959; Hoi ton 
1971; Peterman 1972; Lund 1974; Wells 1976). Lund (1974) also 
documented that grayling began their spawning runs on declining 
stream flows in inlets to Elk Lake, Montana when daily stream and 
lake temperatures averaged approximately 45 F. Water temperature 
and spring flooding were believed to be factors that stimulated 
spawning in Armstrong's (1986) review of the Alaska studies on 
grayl.mg. Specifically, Tack (1973) believed that a water 
temperature of around 39 F triggered grayling spawning in 
interior streams of Alaska which was also the temperature Alt 
(1976) suggested grayling spawned in wastern Alaska. Warner 
(1955) also found grayling spawning at around 39 F in some inlets 
to Fielding Lake, Alaska. Bishop (1971) noted that grayling 
moved onto spawning grounds at water temperatures of 46 to 50 F 
and that spawning took place ^t 50 F. Canadian studies have 
reported water temperatures between 39 to 50 F to be an important 
cue for the initiaTiion of grayling spawning (Rawson 1950; Fripp 
and McCart 1974; Stuart and Chislett 1979). 



CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SPAWNING RUN 

The sex ratio for the Big Hole grayling spawning population 
was 2.0 males: 1.0 female. Kruse (1959) documented sex ratios of 
spawning runs into Grebe Lake, Yellowstone Park, spawning grounds 
to be 2.0:1.0 in 1953 and 0.9:1.0 in 1954. Lund (1974) found 
that females outnumbered mal'-;s in spawning populations of 
grayling entering Narrows Creek fr^m Elk Lake, Montana at a rar.io 
of 2.1:1.0 and 1 . 7 : 1 . (/ m J 972 end 1973, respectively. Bishop 
(1971) found a sex ratio or spawning crayling entering Providence 
Creek, a tributary to Great Slave Lake in Canada to be 1.3 
males: i.O female. Ward (1951) found the sex ratio changed during 

Page - 25 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



the course of the spawning run in an Alberta tributary from 3.0 
males: 1.0 female early in the run to 5.0 malesii.O female late 
in the run . 

The grayling in the Big Hole River system became sexually 
mature at age II. Hubert et al.'s (1985) reviev-^ of riverine 
grayling studies found that age at sexually maturity varied, 
dependent upon latitude and population density. In general, the 
above authors reported that grayling populations with low to 
moderate densities at lower latitudes attained sexual maturity at 
ago II to III, while in northern latitudes or high population 
densities fish matured at age IV and older, not reaching sexual 
maturity until age VI in many Alaskan waters. Tack (1974) 
concluded that angler harvest may have been responsible for 
grayling r.iaturing at a smaller size (earlier age) in the Chena 
River than in ijther waters of Alaska. 

The growth curve for grayling in the Big Hole system 
illustrates that the majority of growth is put on during their 
first two years (Figure 5). The presence of some juveniles in 
tributaries to the river and the interpretation of early growth 
from a few scales suggests that a small segment of the juvenile 
population may rear for up to two years in river tributaries. In 
Hubert et al.'s review (1935) of riveririe populations they 
reported that grayling m Hon tana and Wyoming reach 7.2 to 9.8 
inches in 2 years and -from 11.2 to 14.7 in 4 years. Growth for 
the Big Hole grayling population appears to be toward the upp^r 
end of this range through age II (9.6 inches), while the average 
length of age IV grayling (12.7 inches) lies in the middle of the 
range reported by Hubert et ai. (1965). 



DISTRIBUTION OF SPAWNING WITHIN THE DRAINAGE 

The distribution of spawning grayling within the Big Hole 
drainage shows that areas above the North Fork of the Big Hole 
River were more intensively used for spawning. Precise reasons 
for this distribution of spawning Are unknown at this time, 
however, the following speculation may encourage further 
investigation. One possible explanation for the spawning 
distribution could be the high fine sediment load contributed to 
the Big Hole from the North Fork watershed. This drainage is 
underlain by highly erosive granitic batholithic material and lias 
recently experienced more intensive land-use. Previous streambed 
sampling by the senior author in 19S7 found that a riffle a.reA 
within the ri^er near Wisdom contained only 16X fine material 
(material less than 0.25 inch), whiile a riffle located aiova the 
Highway 43 bridge near Squaw Creek (An Ar^a below the North Fork) 
contained 297. fine material, and a riffle near Sportsmen's Park 

Page - 26 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



contained 21"'. fine mate'-ial (files, oeavarhead fwational Forest 
Dillon, iiT) . Another- potential explanauian for this spawnirg 
distribution is that the portion of the rx\'sr £bove the North 
Fork may bs inherently lest stable resulv.ing if! more areas o* 
"hydrolcgic mstabi 1 1 ty " V'ihxch creates preferred spawning 
habitat. 



MOVEMENT 

The movement patterns observed through recaptures of tagged 
fish and by the authors during their work on the Big Hole 
suggests that a segment of tfie ri\erine Eiig Hole grayling 
population spend the winter in deep pooifb in the portion of the 
river below the l^iisdom areai as far as the Divide Dam and perhaps 
in the lower portions of some tributaries which have deep pools 
cr areas of groundwater recharge. During th.e spring, the 
fiiajority of the mature grayling move up river ^nd spawn in the 
portion of the river from the mouth of thie North Fork up to 
immediately above Wisdom, and in the lower portions of Swamp, 
Bteel , 3ig Lai-.e, Rock, and Sand Hollow creeks. 

During years of average and above average river flows rnost 
of those grayling that moved up river during the spring ^emain in 
the upper portion of the river throughout the suminer to feed 
before ir.ovirg back down river in the fall (usually sometime 
during October) to return to winter habitat areas. The e;.act 
mechanism which triggers this down river movement is not known, 
but is suspected tc be a combination of rising river flows 
(resulting from either fall rains, increased return flows from 
irrigation, or a combination of the two) and declining water 
temperatures. During years of extreme low flow we have observed 
that a large portion of the grayling which moved up river during 
the spring migrate back down river immediately after spawning. 
This movement pattern was observed m 1985, 1987, and 1983, all 
years of low flow. What triggers this immediate down river 
migration is unclear, but may be related to drastic reductions in 
river flow during the late spring/early summer period. 

At the present time, we Are unsure if juvenile grayling 
follow this same migration pattern in the Big Hole system. We 
have not captured many juvenile grayling in the lower portions of 
the Big Hole, but have frequently captured juveniles in the 
Wisdom a,r^A. It may be that juvenile grayling m the Big f-lole 
either r"ear up through age 11 in rhs upper portion of the 
drainage, cr follow similar movement patterns as adults. During 
electrof ishing sampling in the fRll of 1986, juvenile (age O) 
grayling disappeared from the Wisdom area between the mark and 
recapture sampling. This would support the latter of the above 
two theories. 

Page - 27 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



Other authors have noted thxs type of annual rnxgraticn 
pattern in other riverine grayling populations. The following 
discussion of grayling movements in Alaska systems is taken from 
Armstrong (1986). He summarized the reasons for these "complex 
migrations to overwintering, spavNining, and feeding sites" to be 
"adaptions to different systems or differemc parts of the same 
system" which "enables the young [which "emerge early and develop 
rapidly"] to leave systems before they become frozen and 
uninhabitable in winter." He further states that "entire 
populations of grayling migrate downstream and out of certain 
tributaries and enter" main stem rivers for the winter. These 
populations leave streams which dry up or freeze solid, but also 
leave spring— fed streams. In conversations with Steve Tack 
(Fairbanks, Alaska) Armstrong and Tack speculated that the reason 
grayling leave these spring-fed streams is that these streams 
often have extensive frazil ice in winter. Armstrong also states 
that in larger unsilted rivers in Alaska (the iSig Hole would most 
closely resemble these systems) most grayling inhabit the upper 
reaches during the summer and migrate down stream to overwinter 
in the deeper water of the main stem. 

The majority of these Alaska populations begin this down 
stream movement in September, similar to the time Big Hole 
grayling population moved down river from the upper basin in 
previous normal flow years. Grayling in Alaska were found to 
migrate from a tew miles up to iOO miles to reach overwintering 
habitat. In these unsilted Alaska rivers grayling use different 
portions of the system during the summer depending upon their age 
and maturity. Young— of —the— year tended to remain near areas 
where they emerged, usually m the upper reaches of the system. 
Juveniles (ages I, II, and III) used the lower portions oT the 
rivers and their tributaries. Adults either moved upstream to 
feed in the upper reaches of the rivers, or if they spawned in 
the upper reaches, remained there throughout the summer. The 
grayling in Alaska were found to return annually to feeding areas 
and it was suggested that they probably show similar fidelity to 
spawning sites. 

Hubert et al.'s (1985) review documented the same types of 
migration patterns and clarified the following. Downstream 
migration to wintering areas was found to occur when water 
temperatures approached 32 F (Yoshihara 1972). All ages of 
grayling moved downstream to overwintering areas in large streams 
and rivers during late summer and fall (Yoshihara 1972; Kratt and 
Smith 1977; Tack 1980). Wintering areas included pools of 
intermittent and flowing streams, as well as spring-fed tog 
streams (Craig and Poulin 1975) which did not freeze to the 
bottom during winter months ( Krueger 1981). 



Page - 28 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



SPAWNING SITE CHARACTERISTICS 

We found Big Hole grayling spawning over gravel that was 
very clean on its surface. Spawning occurred in riffle areas in 
close proximity to pool or deep run habitats. Most previous 
investigators have found that grayling spanned in riffles or in 
transition zones between riffles and pools (hlershall 1907; Rawson 
1950; Nelson 1954; Bishop 1971). Eggs and spawning have 
generally been found on gravel and not on mud, silt, sand, or 
clay substrates (Henshail 1907; Rawson 1950; Nelson 1954; Warner 
1955; Bishop 1971; Tack 1971; Tack 1973; Kratt and Smith 1977), 
however, Bi^ovMn (1938) found the Agnes Lake, Montana spawners 
spawning over silt and sand at a ratio of 3:1 in the inlet, 
Curtis (1977) found grayling from Wyoming lakes in inlet and 
outlet streams spawning over a sand/ fine gravel substrate, 
Bendock (1979) found a lake population of grayling spawning over 
a wide variety of material from large rubble to vegetated silt 
within the lake. Reed (1964) found grayling spawning over mud in 
a side slough, and Tack (1980) found grayling spawning on sedges 
m a stagnant pond. To summarize, it appears that lake popula- 
tions of grayling may have adapted to spawning over fine 
material, while river and stream populations generally spawn over 
gravel in riffle areas. There has been little work done to 
evaluate spawning success in different substrate conditions. 
This question should be addressed in future research. 



STATUS OF POPULATION AND ENHANCEMENT FEASIBILITY 

We will give a brief assessment of our opinion on the 
present status of the riverine grayling population in the Big 
Hole River system and briefly explain recent attempts directed at 
enhancement of this population. We will also briefly discuss the 
problems which will likely be associated with attempting to re- 
establish riverine populations of grayling into other waters m 
the state. The following is speculation based on observation and 
a review of the literature. 

The riverine population which exists in the upper Big Hole 
River system above Divide, Montana appears to be a single 
population and at least a portion of this population uses the 
entire upper river system on a seasonal basis. This population 
is presently at a low level and the recent trend (from 1983 to 
the present) has been a declina (Oswald m prep.). Year class 
strengths and weaknesses appear to be linked to river flows with 
below average flows producing weak year classes and normal a^-^d 
slightly above average flows producing strong year classes. 
Ironically, it appears that flows which B.re way above average 
may also produce weak year classes. Grayling £ire notoriously 

Page - 29 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

vulnerable to angling (Fal.k and Gillman 1974; Tack 1974; Graback" 
1981) and recent regulation restrictions have attempted to remove 
that component of mortality from the riverine Big Hole population 
(Table 1). The other three potential avenues for preservmc 
and/or enhancing this population B.rs: 1) habitat enhancemant, 
either through the enhancement of river flows or direct habitat 
enhancement by creating more preferred habitats; 2) population 
enhancement through releases of riverine stock grayling fry into 
the system; and 3) control of competitors and predators, if 
further research finds these tv-jo types of interactions contribute 
significantly to overall mortality. We will discuss each of 
these options in detail. 

One of the most likely candidates for preserving and /or 
enhancing populations is to provide more stable river flows and 
reduce potential loss of grayling in irrigarion ditches. By 
providing more stable flows, particularly during the relative 
short spawning and incubation period, survival from eggs through 
the first summer of life should be enhanced. More work is needed 
to confirm our observations from 1988 and further refine the 
relationship between the timing of spawning and river flows and 
water temperatures. If we can accurately predict when spawning 
will occur, we can work with local irrigators to provide for more 
stable river flows from the initiation of spawning through the 
time fry emerge (a two to three week time period). The senior 
author has already approached irrigators in the upper Big Hole 
vallev near Wisdom and received a very positive response to this 
concept. There appears to be a very real possibility of 
initiating this type of management. 

Another potential source of mortal itv is the loss of 
grayling, particularly fry and juveniles, into irrigation 
ditches. One way to limit this loss would be to attempt to 
return any grayling fry or juveniles back to the river from 
irrigation ditches before these ditches Brs shut down for haying 
or at the end of the season. Work done in the Gallatin River 
system found that an incremental shut-down of ditches o^er a two 
to three day period triggered trout to move up the ditch and 
return to the river (Clothier 1953 1954; Kraft 1972). Orienta- 
tion of irrigation diversions relative to the river channel can 
also reduce loss of fish into ditches (Spindler 1955). Again, 
the senior author approached the irrigators of the upper Big Hole 
drainage and these irrigators agreed to begin implementing the 
incremental shut-down of ditches immediately, and were wiUmq •-- 
discuss orientation and operation of diversion structures to 
minimize fish loss. The loss of grayling migrating down river 
during the fall to seek overwjnter habitat into irrigation 
ditches does not appear to be a concern in the upper Big Hol° 
drainage (from Jackson down to Squaw Creek). The irrigators m 

Page - 30 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



this portion of the draxnage indicated that their irrigation 
diversions were 'shut off either in July prior to haying (and not 
turned back on again) or around Labor Day in S3ptsfr;ber, prior to 
the initiation of down river movement by grayliiig. 

Direct habitat enhancement would depend upon better defining 
habitat requirements of this population and determining if 
physical habitat was limiting populations. If this was the 
case, a habitat improvement program could be initiated. This 
optiion would rely on the collection of more information. 

Direct enhancement of riverine grayling populations in the 
Big Hole River could be accomplished by supplementing ths 
existing population with other riverine stock or with frv hatched 
from eggs taken from Big Hole grayling. There is a risk in the 
first option in that it could potentially introduce undesirable 
genetic material into the present population and alter the 
genetic makeup of the existing native population. The second 
option is the more preferable, however, one problem with this 
option 15 that the availability of eggs to supplement the 
population is presently limited due to the low numbers of mature 
females in the population and the difficulty in obtaining eggs 
during the extremely short spawning period. During tiie 1983 
spawning season approximately 5 , OOO fertilized eggs were ootaired 
from the Big Hole grayling population for fry behavior research 
conducted by Dr. C. Kaya (Montana State University, Bozeman ) . 
After Dr, Kaya hatd completed his experiments and these fry had 
suffered some mortality due to disease, approximately 3,000 fry 
remainea. These fry were released into a lake which was 
previously barren of fish. This lake has an inlet which should 
provide suitable spawning habitat for these grayling. This 
release should provide additional fry for the Big Hole system. 
Our plan is to return to the lake vjhen these fry mature (m two 
to three years) to obtain fertilized eggs by trapping the inl3t 
stream. It is hoped that during the course of maturing these 
released fry do not lose too much of the genetic component that 
makes them riverine Big Hole River stock due to adaption to the 
lake environment. The objectives of this release were two-fold. 
One was to provide a source of fry to stock back into the Big 
Hole system so that we could enhance thie Big Hole population 
while we were investigating how to enhance survival within the 
Big Hole system. The other objective was to preserve some 
genetic material from the Big Hole grayling population in an 
isolated location so that if the Big Hole population suffered a 
catastrophic decline to extinction we would have a source -or re- 
introducing grayling back into the Big hole. Since the 3 , 0'. O fry 
which were stocked into the lake m 1983 were the progeny of only 
SIX feiviales, we plan to spawn some additional females during 1939 
to increase the genetic variabilLt/ within this lake population. 



Page - 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

We do not plan r.a allow these fish more than two generations, and 
preferably only one, of lake residence prior to our returning for 
eggs to supplement the Big Hole population. The exception to 
that would be if the Big Hole grayling population went extinct 
due to a catastrophic event. 

The issue of competition and predation will have to be 
addressed by conducting the research to determine if these two 
factors contribute to significant mortality within the Big Hole 
River grayling population. It would be premature at the present 
time to suggest acting on this possibility without further 
evidence. 

The possibility of re-establishing riverine populations of 
grayling into waters in Montana which do not presently support 
them should be addressed. At the present time it appears that 
re-establishing grayling populations will be difficult, at best. 
The experience that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologiats 
had in Yellowstone ^^atiDnal Park trying to re-establish a 
grayling population into Canyon Creek, a tributary to the 
Firehole River, suggests that rivt^rine populations require 
relatively large drainage? systems that sltb accessible. It the 
Canyon Creek experiment, a falls on lower Canyon Creek was 
enhanced to provide a total barrier to upstream migration so thax 
exotic species of fish could not ascend Canyon Creek and coa^;pet3 
or prey on the grayling population re-introduced into Canyon 
Creek. An attempt was made to renove all fish within Canyon 
Creek prior to the introduction of grayling v-jhich were obtained 
from the Big Hole River. However, it appears that these 
introduced grayling moved out of Canyon Creek, probably seeking 
winter habitat, and could not return. This suggests that it will 
not be possible to re-establish populations of riverine grayling 
into small isolated tributaries, but will require medium to large 
river drainages which can provide spawning, summer feeding, and 
overwintering habitats. The effort to accomplish this type of 
re-introduction would be immense and may mean that existing fish 
species could not be removed prior to grayling re— introduction . 
The potential for re-establishing riverine grayling in Montana 
where they do not presently exist will require more research and 
a strong commitment to that type of effort. 



Page 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



LITERATURE CITED 



Alt, K T. 1976. Inventory and cataloging of sport fish waters 
of western Alaska. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 
Federal Aid m Fish Restoration, Annual Performance Report, 
1975-1976. Project F-9-a , 17(G-I-P): 156, Juneau, Alaska. 

Armstrong, R. H. 1986. A review of Arctic grayling studies in 
Alaska, 1952-19B2- Biological Papers of the University of 
Alaska, Number 23, Institute of Arctic Biology, Unive'-si t-)' 
of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska. 

Bendock, T. N. 1979. Inventory and cataloging of arctic area 

waters. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Federal Aid in 
Fish Restoration, Annual Performance Report, 1973-1979. 
Project F-^-11, 20(G-I-I;, Juneau, Alaska. 

Bishop, F. G. 1971. Observations on spawning habits and 
fecundity of the Arctic grayling. Progressive Fish- 
Cuiturist 33:12-19. 

Brown, C. J. D. 1938. Observations on the life-history and 
breeding habits of the Montana grayling. Copiea 3:132- 
136. 

Clothier, l-i. D. 1953. Fish loss and movement in irrigation 

diversions form the West Gallatin River, Montana. Journal 
of Wildlife Management 17:144-153. 

Clothier, W. D. 1954. Effect of water reductions on fish 

movement m irrigation diversions. Journal of Wildlife 
Management 13:150-160. 

Craig, P. C, and V. A. Poulin. 1975. Movements and growth of 
Arctic grayling ( Thymailus arcticus ) and juvenile Arctic 
char ( Salvelinus alpinus ) in a small arctic stream, Alaska. 
Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 32:689- 
698. 

Curtis, M. 1977. The age, growth and management of the Arctic 
grayling ( Thymailus arcticus ) in Wyoming. M.S. Thesis, 
University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming. 

Daniel, W. W- 19^8. Applied nonparametric statistics. Hougntcn 
Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 



Page 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 

deBruyn, M., ana P. McCart. 1974. Life iiistory of the grayling 
( ihymal lus arcticus) m Beaufort Sea cJrairtages in the Yukon 
Territory. Pages 92-130 in_ Arctic Gas Biological Report 
Series, Volume 20, Aquatic Environments Limited, Calgary, 
Alberta. 

Eriksen, C. H. 1975. Physiological ecology and management of 
the r&rs "southern" grayling Thymallus arcticus tricolor 
Cope. Verh. Internat. Verein . Limnol . 19:2448-2455. 

Everett, R. J., and F. W. Allendorf. 1935. Population genetics 
of Arctic grayiing:Grebe Lake, Yellowstone National Park. 
Population Genetics Laboratory Report 85/1. University of 
Montana, Missoula, Montana. 

Falk, M. R. and D. V. Gillman. 1974. Impact of a sport fishery 
on Arctic grayimq in tne Brabant Island atss. Northwest 
Territories. Canada I>epartment of the Environment, 
Fisheries and Marine Service, Fisheries Operations D- 
irectcrate, Data Reporc Number CEN/T-74-7, Toronto, Canada. 

Falk, M. R., M. M. Roberge, D. V. Gillman, and G. Low. 1932. 
The Arctic grayling, Thymallus arcticus . in Providence 
Creek, Northwest Territories, Canada, 1976-1979. Western 
RegioD, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian 
Manuscript Report, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Number 
1665, l-linnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. 

Grabacki, S, T. 1981, Effects of exploitation on U,b population 
dynamics of Arctic grayling in the Chena River, Alaska. 
M.S. Thesis, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska. 

Henshall, J. A. 1906. A list of the fishes of Montana. 

Bulletin of the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana. 

Henshall, J. A. 1907. Culture of the Montana grayling. U.S. 
Bureau of Fisheries, Document 628, Washington, D.C. 

Holton, G. D. 1971. The lady of the stream. Montana Outdoors 
2(5) : 18-23. 

Hubert, W. A., R. s. Helzner. L. A. Lee, and P. C. Nelson. 19S5. 
Habitat suitability inde;; models and mstream flow suit- 
ability curves; Ar-c tic grayling riverine populations. Lf.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Reporc 82(10.110), 
Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Johnson, J. E. 1987. Protected fishes of the Unite.- Stales and 
Canada. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland. 

Page - 34 



^ 



GRAYLING SPAWNING REPORT 



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